MLS Match Preview: Sporting Kansas City vs. Montreal Impact

SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs MONTRÉAL IMPACT
SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
March 30, 2013 (WEEK 5, MLS Game #39)
8:30 p.m. ET (KSMO; TVA)

Sporting Kansas City return home with the task of cooling off the hottest team in Major League Soccer when the Montréal Impact come calling at Sporting Park on Saturday afternoon. Sporting have played to back-to-back scoreless draws, the last at New England a week ago. The Impact are a perfect four wins from four starts to open the new season, coming off a 1-0 home win against the New York Red Bulls.

REFEREE: Jorge Gonzalez. SAR (bench): Adam Wienckowski; JAR (opposite): Matthew Kreitzer; 4th: Matthew Foerster
MLS Career: 90 games; FC/gm: 25.1; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 27; pens: 23

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DISABLED LIST: KC: Teal Bunbury; Jacob Peterson
SUSPENDED: none
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (3 meetings): Sporting 1 win, 3 goals … Impact 1 win, 3 goals … Ties 1
AT KANSAS CITY (1 meeting): Sporting 0 wins, 0 goals … Impact 1 win, 2 goals … Ties 0
RETURN MATCHES: 6/1: Sporting Kansas City vs. Montreal Impact, 7:30 p.m. CT; 7/27: Montreal Impact vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7 p.m. ET

LAST YEAR (MLS):
5/5: KC 0, MTL 2 (Martins 30; Bernier 64)
7/4: MTL 1, KC 3 (Bernier 49 – Kamara 57; Zusi 75; Peterson 82)
9/22: MTL 0, KC 0

  • The teams split their season series in Montréal’s inaugural season. Each team won on the other’s home ground – the Impact winning 2-0 on May 5 in Kansas City, and Sporting winning July 4 in Québec – before they reached a scoreless draw in the third match.
  • Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. MTL: P3 W1 L1 T1 … Marco Schallibaum vs. KC: first game

SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Sporting Kansas City were held to a goalless draw for a second consecutive match, this time with the New England Revolution on Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. Sporting sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 5 points from 4 matches.

LAST MATCH

  • Neither side came to terms with the blustery afternoon at Gillette Stadium and ultimately settled for the stalemate.
  • Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis was credited with four saves for the match, while Sporting 'keeper Jimmy Nielsen did not record a save as the home side was not shown with a single attempt on target for the match, and just two shots total.
  • Sporting manager Peter Vermes made two changes to the team that settled for a scoreless draw with the Chicago Fire at Sporting Park. Ike Opara came into the back four and Soony Saad started up top with Matt Besler and Graham Zusi on national team duty.
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-1-2-3): Jimmy Nielsen - Mechack Jerome, Ike Opara, Aurelien Collin, Seth Sinovic - Oriol Rosell - Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber - C.J. Sapong, Claudio Bieler, Soony Saad (Peterson Joseph 63).

TEAM NEWS

  • Sporting KC have played to back-to-back scoreless draws. They have not allowed a goal now in the last 249 minutes; they have not scored in 193 minutes, since a 2-1 loss in Toronto on March 9.
  • “I don’t like the fact that we didn’t score a goal, but I also know that it’s hard when a team puts 11 guys within 30 or 40 yards of their goal and it’s difficult sometimes to break that down,” said SKC manager Peter Vermes. “I just liked from the first minute to the last minute how we played our last game. I think today with the guys who jumped in, they were locked into the game. Now, we all know it wasn’t pretty soccer by anybody’s imagination but it’s good because they were in the game.
  • For the seventh time in club history, KC did not allow a single shot on target for match. “The great thing is, now two games, we’ve put a 90-minute game together where we competed and that’s what you need in MLS,” said Vermes. “You need that first, if you get that – you always give yourself a chance. If you don’t compete and think you’re going to play through another team, that one’s not happening.”
  • Said Nielsen: “It became an ugly game, became a battle. Both teams came out and gave everything they had. It was very, very tough to do something with the ball and be creative. You had to battle and hope for the best.”
  • With Graham Zusi away with the U.S. national team, Soony Saad made his first start since last July 14 and played 63 minutes before giving way to Peterson Joseph.
  • “This was not a game to evaluate somebody on the technical side,” Vermes said. “It was a game to evaluate people on the battle side, how much they would battle over the course of the 90 minutes, and that's what all the guys did. That part of it was very good.”
  • Center back Ike Opara made his Sporting KC debut, starting an MLS match for the first time since September 19, 2012 with the San Jose Earthquakes.
  • “Obviously we changed our style today from what we’re normally used to, and we almost got a goal or two so looking back, we got a good group point and we’re looking forward to next week,” said Opara. “ … I think after the first 10 minutes we got our feet wet and did as much better as we could for the game. Obviously we would have loved to have gotten three points but we’re not going to shy away and say we’re not happy with this one especially with the conditions.”

MONTREAL IMPACT
The Montréal Impact continued their perfect start to 2013, making it four wins from four games with a 1-0 victory against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon at Olympic Stadium. The Impact sit atop the Eastern Conference with 12 points.

LAST MATCH

  • The game's lone goal came a quarter of an hour into the match. Patrice Bernier curled the ball first time between Red Bulls defenders Markus Holgersson and Brandon Barklage, and Marco Di Vaio calmly followed the ball’s path to the top of the box before burying a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Luis Robles.
  • Impact head coach Marco Schällibaum made one change to the team that defeated Toronto FC 2-1 at Olympic Stadium. Karl Ouimette made his first professional start, coming into central defense in place of Alessandro Nesta.
  • MONTREAL IMPACT (4-1-4-1): Troy Perkins - Hassoun Camara, Matteo Ferrari, Karl Ouimette, Jeb Brovsky - Patrice Bernier - Andres Romero (Andrew Wenger 84), Davy Arnaud, Felipe Martins (Calum Mallace 75), Andrea Pisanu (Justin Mapp 62) - Marco Di Vaio.

TEAM NEWS

  • The Montréal Impact became the seventh team in MLS history to start a season 4-0-0 with their 1-0 win vs. New York. Four have been in the last four seasons (LA Galaxy, 2010; Real Salt Lake, 2011; Sporting KC, 2012), while the other three were all in the league’s first three seasons (LA, 1996, ’98; D.C. United, 1997).
  • “In the first half, we suffered a little bit, especially the first 10 minutes. We played too far away from New York when defending and didn’t create anything up until we scored and then it lifted us a little,” said Impact head coach Marco Schällibaum. “The second half was better. We seem to score goals at opportune moments in a game.”
  • Schällibaum is the second coach to take over an MLS team and record at least four victories in a row. Tom Fitzgerald took charge of the Columbus Crew midway through the 1996 season, and led the club to eight consecutive victories. The record for wins at the start of an MLS career is Lothar Osiander, who saw the LA Galaxy win their first 12 games in club history in the league’s inaugural season.
  • “When you’re doing well, there are 18 other teams that want to be in your place. You have to defend your position when you’re on the top of the mountain,” said Schällibaum. “When you’re there everything is sunny, but when you’re on the bottom, its rainy, or here maybe snowy. So, you can’t take things lightly, you have to be ready to defend your position.
  • The four victories in a row are one shy of the Impact’s longest winning streak in MLS, which came last July 28-Aug. 25, and preceded a six-game losing streak to end the season.
  • Marco Di Vaio scored for a second consecutive match and took over the team lead. “I felt good out there tonight. I felt like things are getting better for me every game and I reacted well in finding space when moving forward,” said Di Vaio. “We are creating a lot of chances and we keep improving on the mental aspect of the game, but the season is long and we have to keep working and improving.”
  • Said Schällibaum: “He did a lot of good work up top. He put himself in really good scoring chances, but unfortunately was unable to score a second goal. You have to remember he is an experienced player, so he needs rhythm and pace. He is an extraordinary athlete.”
  • Patrice Bernier has recorded assists in three consecutive matches and now leads the league in that department.
  • Karl W. Ouimette was called upon to step into central defense in place of Alessandro Nesta, his first start in MLS. He became the first Impact academy product to start a match for the club.
  • “I’m satisfied with my performance. I felt we didn’t give the other team a lot of chances. Personally, I won a lot of duels and anticipated the ball well, so I’m happy with that,” said Ouimette. Said Schällibaum: “We managed the game well, we let the ball roll a bit and we created the chances. We wanted that second goal. We can’t sit deep and wait for the game to end.”